Impact

In a modern world, legal academics endeavour to contribute to society at large, in addition to their contributions to scholarship. Their research aims to generate “impact” beyond academia, defined as “contributions, beneficial effects, valuable changes or advantages” to “the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life” (Framework for Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2020, Hong Kong SAR).

CUHK LAW places impact at the core of its research mission. Research conducted by CUHK LAW academics has contributed towards the improvement of society – particularly the rule of law – in Hong Kong, Greater China, and beyond.

IMPACT ACHIEVEMENTS

Find out more about how CUHK LAW research and public engagement activities have positively impacted on society at large. 

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Shaping Electricity Market Reform 

Our research helped to shape better energy market regulation in Central Asia while improving the cost of clean energy supply in a region in which populations suffer chronically from high levels of energy poverty.

Whilst the Central Asian region is one of the world’s major energy resource bases, it is also an example of legal and operational unreliability and unsustainability when it comes to electricity supply. First, interruptions of electricity supply and significant pollution require urgent and important investments in the electricity infrastructure because they significantly hinder economic growth and affect the quality of life of the local populations. Second, inadequate tariff structures negatively influence the financial viability of the region’s utilities, with many of them being on the verge of bankruptcy. The legal frameworks in place have for years promoted inertia over reform and not allowed for change that would benefit consumers.

In this context, our research provided to national energy authorities evidence-based suggestions which demonstrated that, whilst their energy utilities urgently needed to improve their precarious financial situation, the reality was that high regulatory and policy risks excessively increased the cost of energy supply, with negative impacts on the end-consumers. Energy laws had to take on a new role, i.e. to stabilize the investment conditions for energy utilities and renewable energy investments, in a way that improves the efficiency of the energy sector to the benefit of consumers. Best-practice approaches to electricity market regulation had to be adapted to the local institutional context, in order to overcome the existing obstacles to market reform.

The impact achieved by our research was primarily generated in the process of writing Professor Anatole Boute’s manuscript (Cambridge University Press, 2019) on Energy Security along the New Silk Road: Energy Law and Geopolitics in Central Asia.

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Atrocity Speech: Constructing a Public Education Platform to Reform the Law

(Supported by CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund)

On its publication by Oxford University Press in 2017, CUHK Law Professor Gregory Gordon’s book Atrocity Speech Law: Foundation, Fragmentation, Fruition was hailed as “a landmark contribution” that provides “the fundamental concepts, systematic structure, and thorough understanding of history that are needed to fix [the relationship between] international law [and] hateful, dangerous speech.” [Carol Pauli, Human Rights Quarterly, 2018].  Professor David Simon, Director of the Yale Genocide Studies Program (Yale GSP), who described Atrocity Speech Law in a review [Opinio Juris, 2017) as “the rare book on legal doctrine that is engaging and digestible to lawyers, legal academics, and non-lawyers alike” approached Professor Gordon with a proposal to convert the book into a form that could further broaden its audience and enhance its impact. Eventually, the proposal developed into what was conceived as a two-stage project: first, development of a website, followed by a traveling audio-visual exhibition to increase the book’s impact by making it even more accessible to experts and the lay public and inspire them to make and/or call for Professor Gordon’s proposed changes.

In 2020, Professors Gordon and Simon were awarded a significant CUHK Project Impact Enhancement Grant (HK$194,000) to create the website. Joining them as grant recipients was Dr. Leora Kahn, Executive Director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice, a Non-Governmental Organization that creates online and traveling physical exhibitions and websites to engage the broader public in conversations about human rights and justice. Gordon, Simon and Kahn are also working with Dr. Willhemina Wahlin of the School of Information and Communication Studies of Charles Sturt University, Australia (and Creative Director of PROOF), and web developer Paul Prickett, Managing Director of Melbourne-based design studio Involve.

The website will be divided into four main sections: (1) Background: Speech, Mass Violence and Law (providing the relevant history); (2) Case Studies: Speech, Atrocities and Bad Law (explaining how the law has been problematically developed and applied); (3) Fixing the Law (describing how the law can be fixed, including via Professor Gordon’s groundbreaking “Unified Liability Theory for Atrocity Speech Law”); and (4) Beyond Law: Education and Prevention (taking many of the book’s suggestions for shoring up and strengthening the proposed legal fixes outside of the judicial sector). Apart from laying out Professor Gordon’s main points through a user-friendly architecture and design, the website will employ illustrative movie clips, moving first-hand testimonies and powerful photo narratives to put the book into greater perspective.

In the end, the website will seek to enhance the book’s impact by: (1) spreading awareness of its message through a wide-ranging audience that will be encouraged to spread its message (numbers of visits and responsive narratives from visitors on impact to be recorded); (2) using the website to promote programming and targeted messaging to policy makers and law formulators to inspire the recommended changes; and (3) serving as an architectural and public relations springboard to launch the traveling exhibition in Phase 2 so as to create more personal/direct impact in important target communities (such as The Hague, home of the International Criminal Court; New York, seat of UN Headquarters; and Geneva, where the International Committee for the Red Cross and the UN Human Rights Council are based).

View the preliminary mock-up pages here.

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Better compensation for investors in Mainland China and Hong Kong

The research conducted by Professor Robin Huang has addressed an important issue – how to improve compensation remedies for aggrieved investors in China’s securities markets – which has hindered the effectiveness of the justice process for securities investors. At a time when less than ten percent of aggrieved investors have sought compensation remedies against securities-related financial misconduct, Professor Huang have formulated practical law reform suggestions which have been adopted by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), by the Shanghai Financial Court and by the HK Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). The underlying research has culminated in the production of two books and four academic articles, which have been disseminated through conferences, media and policy reports. He has also been invited to give talks or provide consultancy to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), People’s Bank of China (PBOC), Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shenzhen Stock Exchange, industry associations, as well as law firms. As a result, the Chinese regime for securities civil suits has become significantly more effective and investors can now more easily bring security-related civil suits and obtain compensation remedies for the harm caused by securities misconduct, whilst processing by the courts was also facilitated.

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Reproductive Rights as Social Rights in Nepal: Fostering Access and Implementation

(Supported by CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund)

#DesignTheLawNepal has created an innovative space for Nepali citizens to understand and foster their sexual and reproductive rights with a view of removing barriers to access to justice through accessible language and engaging explainers exploiting the power of visual communication methods. 

This is a collaborative project between the Faculty of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK LAW), the City Law School of the University of London, and iProbono. Led by Mara Malagodi at CUHK LAW, the team includes Rehan Abeyratne and Ngoc Bui Son at CUHK LAW, Emily Allbon and Sabrina Germain at City, and Mariam Faruqi, Meenakshi Menon, Bandana Upreti, and Barun Ghimire at iProbono. All the artwork is by illustrator and comic artist Kripa Joshi.

This interdisciplinary project brings together academics, practitioners, activists and creatives with a view of advancing sexual and reproductive rights through legal design and comparative law methods. In the first phase of the project, the team has created a groundbreaking toolkit featuring two comic strips explaining two seminal Supreme Court decisions on uterus prolapse and abortion, six cards illustrating the stories of six women facing barriers in realizing their sexual and reproductive rights, and a set of infographics mapping the relevant laws on sexual and reproductive health. 

The project should be considered for the Breakthrough of the Year because already in its first phase it has successfully catalyzed changes to the Nepali legal system centered around the sexual and reproductive well-being and dignity of individuals through ongoing constitutional litigation in the Supreme Court of Nepal seeking to decriminalize abortion entirely and lobbying of the political branches with respect to amendment of legislation and policy making. In its second phase, it aims to enhance the implementation of existing sexual and reproductive health rights  by raising awareness of such rights, fostering access to medical and legal services, and de-stigmatizing issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health through the strategic dissemination of the toolkit and further knowledge transfer events. 

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The China Criminal Advocacy Training Programme

(Supported by CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund)

Professor Luke Marsh received a CUHK grant (Project Impact Enhancement Fund (2020)) which will enable him to undertake advanced advocacy professional development training in the United States under the auspices of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. In connection with this, he has been commissioned by the Chinese Prosecution Service in Shenzhen (Qianhai), China in tandem with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s Procuratorial Theory Research Institute to develop and teach on an advocacy training programme which will serve as a unique professional skills exchange with Chinese prosecutors introducing them to court practices and methodologies utilized in common law jurisdictions.

Working in collaboration with Jeremy Dein QC (co-head of 25 Bedford Row, London, Britain’s largest and most established specialist defence lawyer chambers) Professor Marsh will instruct participants through a series of talks (e.g. on ‘case management culture in criminal trials’), advocacy exercises and mock trials, providing them with the necessary skills to internalize the values behind defence-oriented trial process norms to be able to apply them practically. This project, centred on knowledge transfer and public engagement with a cadre of Chinese prosecutors to foster their understanding (and embrace) alternative understandings of trial advocacy and evidence, is one of the first programmes of its kind and represents an invaluable gateway in China for future research endeavours.

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The United Nations General Assembly in the Contemporary Global Order

(Supported by CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund)

Over the past decade there has been a revival in the study of the latent potential of the United Nations General Assembly to break Security Council deadlock to respond to mass atrocity. Finding ways to overcome the veto of the five permanent members has in turn attracted much scholarly and diplomatic discussion. A subset of this discussion, largely confined to the scholarly literature at present, has been the possibility of the General Assembly performing a more active role in international relations through the rebirth of its Uniting for Peace resolution. Set in this context, the need for the General Assembly and civil society movements to be presented with practical legal options for the Assembly to act has become critical.

Professor Michael Ramsden of CUHK LAW was invited to form an academic partnership to support this important objective.  He has joined the advisory board of the International Rule of Law Initiative, where he collaborates with academics and practitioners on promoting the revival of the Uniting for Peace mechanism within the UN system. Building upon his scholarship on international institutional law and international human rights law, Professor Ramsden was an expert advisor consulted in the preparation of The Powers of the UN General Assembly to Prevent and Respond to Atrocity Crimes: A Guidance Document, produced by the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility for Protect.  The impact achieved by Professor Ramsden’s research was also generated in the writing of a sole authored manuscript, International Justice in the United Nations General Assembly (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021), selected to be part of the Academic Council on the United Nations System Series on UN Law.

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Corporate Monitorship: Bolstering Justice and Business in the Great Bay Area

(Supported by CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund)

In the modern business world, any commercial organization may face investigation for offences, such as fraud, bribery, and other economic crimes. Such organization may under certain conditions enter into a contractual arrangement with competent authorities under which the organization commits to improvement of its behaviour in exchange for deferred- or non-prosecution (“DPA” or “NPA”). Core to such arrangement is corporate monitorship, which puts in place an independent, third-party expertise overseeing the arrangement to be abided by the organization.

Corporate monitorship, and more broadly DPA and NPA, help to reduce the risk of a recurrence of business misconduct. It also importantly shields the business and its stakeholders (including employees, customers, suppliers, and the community) from collateral economic damages resulting from a criminal process. Developed originally in the United States, the practice has gained traction over the past decade in Canada, France, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The Supreme People’s Procuracy (“SPP”) of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) is rolling out a pilot legal reform initiative, introducing into the PRC legal system useful elements of the DPA, NPA, and corporate monitorship practice. The SPP has designated the People’s Procuracy of Bao’an District, Shenzhen to spearhead the reform initiative in the Great Bay Area.

Professor Chao Xi of CUHK LAW has been invited to form an academic-prosecution partnership to guide and support this important project. Building on his corporate law scholarship, Professor Xi has engaged closely in the institutional design and implementation of the pilot scheme, by providing pro bono consultation. The pilot scheme in Shenzhen aims at bolstering both the rule of law and business environment in the Great Bay Area. It promises to inform the ongoing judicial and legislative reforms in the field at national level. Professor Xi’s contributions have been officially recognized.

Professor Xi has carried out his work on this reform initiative in collaboration with members of the CCTL Corporate Law and Governance Cluster and with financial support from the CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund.

SUPPORT FOR IMPACT

Impact and public policy-related research activities at CUHK LAW have attracted considerable external funding support.

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Immigration Detention and Vulnerable Migrants in Hong Kong: Evaluating the System, Facilitating Reform

(Supported by RGC Research Impact Fund 2019-20)

This RGC Research Impact Fund project attempts to evaluate the immigration detention system in Hong Kong, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups of migrants. My team and I examining the functioning and effects of immigration detention law, policy and practice, with a focus on survivors of torture, victims of human trafficking, and low-income migrant workers. Based upon our findings, we will develop actionable, evidence-based guidelines for improving the system.

Comparative experience from other countries indicates that many immigration detention regimes have tended to become harsh, procedurally unfair and over-used. Comparative experience also suggests that detainees who are politically or socio-economically marginalized are more likely to face violations of their rights to legal advice and due process as well as disruptions to education, work and healthcare.

Against this background, careful evaluation of immigration detention in Hong Kong is urgently needed. This project will generate thorough, field-based, comparative analysis of immigration detention and propose improvements to ensure that Hong Kong’s immigration detention system is rights-respecting, proportionate and in keeping with leading international practice. Over the course of the three-year project, we aim to:

  1. Map, analyse and evaluate the functioning of the immigration detention system, and trace its effects on vulnerable detainees and their families in Hong Kong.
  2. Compare immigration detention policy in Hong Kong to the system in the United Kingdom, to identify best practices and innovation, as well as pitfalls to be avoided.
  3. Recommend concrete, evidence-based reforms to immigration detention in Hong Kong and develop operational guidelines to implement beneficial systemic change.

Not only is this the first detailed study of immigration detention in Hong Kong, it will also add significantly to comparative analysis of immigration detention in East Asia more widely. You can learn more about our research and outreach from our website.

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Regulating Cross-border Data: A Public Policy Framework for Hong Kong 

(Supported by PICO Public Policy Research Funding Scheme 2019-20)

This project investigated the complex web of issues involved in the facilitation of cross-border data so as to inform the public policy debate and assist the Hong Kong Government in developing a coherent and consistent policy. Whilst data issues are often viewed as a matter of privacy and consumer protection, data has become a legitimate economic activity which needs to be organized and supported. With the rise of financial technologies, free data flows have become a fundamental pillar of Hong Kong’s economic progress and, as such, must become a key component of the Government’s development policy. Yet, the Government does not possess a clear and reliable framework affirming Hong Kong’s strategy with regard to data flows, whether financial, commercial or informational.

At best, the absence of a legal framework means that data will flow in and out of Hong Kong without restriction, but such an approach is inefficient because it does not send a firm and supportive message to business interests and investors that the territory supports open data flows. Worse, without a formalized policy, regulatory uncertainty will factor into decision-making and Hong Kong will suffer as the lack of a legal framework creates possible vulnerabilities and liabilities when the laws such as the Privacy Ordinance conflicts with needed free data flows.

The current ‘by default’ strategy supported by a patchwork of legislation and commitments undertaken in free trade agreements does not provide the foresight, security or predictability necessary for Hong Kong to advance its goals and vision for the future. This project evaluated the interconnection of policies such as industrial, innovation, privacy, intellectual property, business development, cybersecurity and competition to formulate the view that Hong Kong should adopt a coherent and consistent policy on cross-border data and provided solid research-based analysis of issues relevant and instrumental to the development of such a policy. Such a policy would help ensure Hong Kong retain its place as a global financial centre and solidify its position as a smart city.

IMPACT PANEL

To provide institutional support for the conduct of impact activities at CUHK LAW, an Impact Panel has been established as a sub-committee under the Faculty’s Committee on Research and Scholarship.

 The Impact Panel currently consists of Professor Lutz Christian Wolff (Chair), Professor Anatole Boute, Professor Kevin Cheng, Professor Mara Malagodi, Professor Chao Xi, and Ms. Grace Ho (Secretary).

 The Impact Panel concurrently serves as the Impact Review Panel for the CUHK’s Project Impact Enhancement Fund.